The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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Bring on the Summer! Elin Hilderbrand, the queen of Summer beach reads, has created yet another fast-paced, intriguing, and highly addictive Nantucket-based beach novel full of secrets and romance. The Perfect Couple will be released on June 19th, and I highly suggest it!

Some popular characters from some of Elin’s previous novels make an appearance, including police chief Ed Kapenash.  The Chief and Nick, a state policeman known as “the Greek” and known by his movie-star good looks, are tasked with investigating the death of 29 year old Merritt Monaco, who was found floating on the each in the wee hours of the morning by Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, on the day of the wedding. Merritt was Celeste’s best friend and maid of honor. As Ed and Nick begin to question those who were with Merritt up until her very last hour, more and more secrets will be exposed. The story flashes back to when Celeste, an assistant zoo director, first met her husband-to-be, Benji Winbury. The Winbury’s are extremely wealthy and have more money than they even know what to do with, a lifestyle which causes Celeste to feel uncomfortable and question her own upbringing at times. Benji’s mother, Greer, a mystery novelist, has made it her mission to hold the most lavish, memorable wedding Nantucket has seen in a while. Celeste is preoccupied by her mother’s declining health, as she is in the final battle with stage 4 cancer. Celeste wants to make her parents proud, and Benji is a perfect gentleman who will be able to provide for her every need and whim.  But is that more important than love? On the outside, Benji and Celeste appear to be the perfect couple. So, why did Celeste have a bag packed ready to leave the island hours before the wedding, when she was interrupted by the tragic discovery of her best friend’s body on the beach. Why would a happy bride-to-be be planning to leave her groom at the altar? And, perhaps the more intriguing question, with whom was she planning to leave the island with? Readers won’t find out the truth about Merritt’s untimely death until the final chapter.

This is one of my favorites from Hilderband, and I’ve read them all.  There is quite a bit more mystery involved in this novel than in her previous books. As with all of Elin’s stories, the paradise-like setting of Nantucket in all its island splendor is reverently portrayed, causing readers to be transported into the story and really get to know the characters. The beaches, night life, farmer’s markets, seafood, lavish homes, and the ferry rides all combine for a sensory overload. I’ve got to travel to Nantucket some day so that I can see it all with my own eyes. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I promise you’ll love it!

 

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The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

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This is a heartbreaking, raw story of mental illness and how it can systematically unravel the bonds between a family. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story, but it was so much more than a young adult coming-of-age story. Of course, there is some young romance and dating involved, but poor Cassie was forced to grow up so early in her life, and was therefore wise beyond her years. For these reasons, the plot is more mature than some young adult novels, and adults would enjoy it as much as teens.

I won’t reveal too much of the plot because you will enjoy it much more learning the story as I did – in bits and pieces of Cassie’s past as she remembers them, discovering moments that have been hidden or repressed in her own memory.

Cassie was placed in a mental institution by her mother, out of the blue, and against her will at the age of 15. She spent two and a half years there, with no support from her family and most everyone believing that she was lying. Even the therapist assigned to her, Dr. Meeks, didn’t believe her or support her. When she turns 18, she emancipates herself and leaves the institution to attend college at her mother’s alma matter. Her only regret is leaving the only true friend she has ever had, James, behind at the institution. Readers get the truth behind why Cassie was at the institution in snippets and flashbacks of her life and tumultuous relationship with her mother. At times, it is hard to read, to imagine what Cassie went through all her life. Once I read the full story of what all happened to her, when she finally revealed it to Liz, near the end, tears streamed down my face.I felt so horrible for Cassie, yet so proud of her ability to carry on and try to find herself. This is a beautiful story, and a unique look at mental illness and perception. Not everything is as it seems.

I was intrigued by the title of this book, and after reading it, I couldn’t think of a more fitting title. Drowning doesn’t always have to be in the literal sense of drowning in water. Unfortunately, as young Cassie is well aware, she spent most of her life drowning.

This is a debut novel and it packs a huge emotional punch. I’ll not be forgetting Cassie or her story any time in the near future. I hope Kletter writes many more stories. I highly recommend this book, if for nothing else but a reminder to everyone to have compassion and empathy for others.

Fans of We Were Here, Everything, Everything, and All the Bright Places will surely enjoy this novel.

The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur

I really enjoyed this story, especially because of the rich atmospheric scenes. As a reader, I really felt transported to the little lake community with its local legends and secrets. The story has a little bit of everything: mystery, suspense, coming-of-age, guilt, and regret. The story takes place in a mostly secluded lake community, where 12 year old Caroline’s family has been coming each summer for years. Caroline, as well as her 16 year old brother Johnny love the lake, but their mother, Jo, doesn’t stick around because the memories from her troubled past at the lake are too vivid. When Jo was 16, her boyfriend Billy drowned, and his death was deemed an accidental drowning. Only Jo, and her husband Kevin, who was Billy’s best friend, know the truth.

Caroline tries to ignore her mother’s aversion to the lake, and enjoy a summer of relaxation and stealing glances at her brother’s cute best friend, Chris. Her brother Johnny spends his days hanging at the beach Pavilion, chatting up young girls who fall all over themselves for him. When a seven year old girl, Sara Starr, goes missing from the beach, all the old lies & secrets threaten to surface, while rescue workers search the lake for Sara’s body. When a human bone is brought up from the bottom of the lake and is found to belong to Billy, the investigation surrounding his death starts up again, with help from Billy’s older sister Dee-Dee, who will not rest until she finds out the truth. Now that the investigation is opened up again, the tension between Jo and Kevin builds as well. Does Kevin know more than he is letting on about what really happened to Billy? As it turns out, Sara’s mother, Patricia, spent her summers growing up at the lake. She claims to have been there the night Billy drowned. What does Patricia know; and will she come forward with information while her own daughter is missing?

The author does a fine job of creating tension lines between the characters so that at any second, one could break. Caroline feels estranged from her mother, and she knows Jo is running from something. She is determined to figure out what, but also determined to find Sara, as she was one of the last ones to see Sara alive that day on the beach. The family drama of three generations of women is an interesting dynamic of this novel. Caroline, her mother Jo, and Jo’s mother, “Gram,” each have unique personalities and attitudes toward the lake. When those personalities and attitudes clash, doors slam and more cracks in their already unstable relationships form. What will it take to bring the family back to a sort of peace again? You’ll want to read this one. The plot twists keep coming until the very end, and the story will stick with you long after you finish reading.

I received a signed copy of this book in a contest. I was in no way compensated, or asked to provide this review.